Category Archives: System Administration

Rackspace Rocks

Of the many challenges that we have in the upcoming move, there was one major one that was my own fault. But you get complacent, you know? I have been using the Speakeasy DSL service, as they had a “geek friendly” package where you pay an exorbitant amount of money to them, but you can do whatever you want (on whatever port you want), and they leave you alone. 2 static IPs, a dozen websites, and services ranging from mail to dns (and beyond) later, and I’m pretty entrenched. Some of the stuff I had been hosting for another group I have started to move to a more traditional web hosting service, but for my stuff, I wanted a little bit more. I had been investigating things, but now that the move has begun to gain momentum, I needed to spin something up.

My choice was Rackspace, and oh, boy, am I ever happy so far (ok, ok, it’s only been 6 days, but still!). I have my own cloud server where I have full control over a complete Linux install. The first day, I had a web server, a database server, and a nameserver running, and had started to move things over. 6 days later, I’ve moved almost all of my stuff (including this blog).

Of course, to a sysadmin/web guy, a machine is a machine, it doesn’t really matter where it’s physically located, or, these days, if it has any physicality at all. So what’s the deal with Rackspace? It was easy to get the server going, the metered billing (based on bandwidth) is fantastically cheap for what I need, and little details like the iPhone app I can use to control aspects of my server all make it painless. And painless is so good…

And This is Why I Don’t Use GUIs…

I just read that NetApp (a company that makes file servers that I have used and administrated for over 10 years, and really like) is yanking their current Graphic User Interface (GUI, which is web-based, and therefore usable on a wide variety of platforms), and replacing it with a “more modern interface”: a Windows application. This would normally be the point where you’d be expecting me to rail on Windows, but I’m not going to this time. The point here could have been made if they’d picked MacOS or something else: in going with a single platform (yes, ok, given the corporate norm, a platform representing the vast majority of NetApp admins), they went from allowing everyone to play, to making it inconvenient at best for people like me to use the interface.

Of course, the *real* point here is that I don’t use GUIs (assuming an alternative), so I will continue to administrate my filer the old-fashioned way, via a command line and config files, annoyed at NetApp’s decision, but unaffected by it.

Belated Happy SysAdminDay

Hopefully I’ll get through this without it sounding like a diatribe, but I think it’s somewhat telling that System Aministrator Appreciation Day was 2 days ago, and I found out about it by reading a blog post while catching up on some feeds.  Feeds that I got behind on while at a conference (OSCON), which was, admittedly, primarily for developers, but there’s been a growing contingent of us sysadmins (this was my 5th year for this conference), such that we now see tutorials and sessions geared toward us.  So you think *someone* might have said something.  I would note that in past years, one or two graduate students (I work in academia) would sent a well-wishing or thank-you note to our trouble ticket system, which is nice.  But there was nothing at all this year.  There’s definitely truth to the idea that when we do our job, we’re not really noticed (of course, when things go wrong…), so I’ll take some consolation in the fact that we must be doing an ok job.

OSCON, Day 2: Tutorials Part the Second

The weather is cooler today (about 10° cooler than the norm, according to the local station), and the walk over from the hotel (about 5-10 minutes) was a great way to start the day.  I actually read the schedule, and went to the right place for breakfast today (almost missed it yesterday!), and got caught up somewhat on blogging and news.

My first tutorial was “PHP: Architecture, Scalability, and Security” by Rasmus Lerdorf.  Rasmus, who created PHP, is always inspiring when he talks about the internals of PHP, and using available tools for getting under the hood of what your code is doing at the system call level, and getting optimizations that you might never have thought of.  The first part of this talk was a refresher for me of what he talked about last year, but I never get tired of listening to him, mostly I think because his philosophy toward writing PHP is very similar to mine (or vise-versa: I don’t mean to sound egotistical; Rasmus could code circles around me).  If nothing else, this talk is entertaining: Rasmus runs a web vulnerabilities scanner of his own making against various websites, starting with the conference site.  This year, the talk got a visit from an O’Reilly organizer and their main web guy, hoping the “attacks” were coming from him!  They were nice about it (an change, Rasmus said, from previous years), and even stayed to hear more of the talk.  Other sites scanned were from audience volunteers (at their own sites), and one shouldn’t have: his site had every vulnerability Rasmus’ scanner had a rule for.  Fun stuff.

The afternoon tutorial was “TCP/IP Troubleshooting for System Administrators“.  The speaker, Darren Hoch, was energetic, engaging and funny, making what could be a dry topic (some other word for entertaining).  Most of it covered tcpdump and netstat (although using using some tools (or variants) that I hadn’t heard of: tethereal and dsniff), and using them in different case studies.  The handout will be a useful reference.  In all, some interesting information that can be used in everyday network issues, and a good refresher.